TikTok wants to determine its users’ appetite for mobile games by launching “mini-games” that can be played inside the social video app and discovered through the creators’ videos. TechCrunch has learned and has now confirmed that TikTok’s new game pilot launched a few weeks ago with a variety of new partners, including game developers Vodoo, Nitro Games, FRVR, Aim Lab, and Lotum.
The launch follows reports earlier this year that the social video app maker was looking to expand into HTML5 gaming after first testing the waters with gaming giant Zynga last November. The two companies had then teamed up to launch a TikTok-exclusive title, Disco Loco 3D, which was similar to Zynga’s (via acquisition) hit game High Heels.
At the time, TikTok said it was engaged in talks with other game makers for similar deals, telegraphing a bigger gaming expansion yet to come. If the move is successful, it could one day position TikTok as a home for casual mobile games that run through Apple and Google’s app stores, and potentially their cut of future gaming revenue.
The list of new mini-games can be found in the TikTok app when a video is posted on the platform. On the final screen before publishing, creators can add hashtags, a description, location and more, as well as optionally link to other content. Previously, tapping the “Add Link” button allowed users to add links to a variety of other experiences using TikTok Jump, a third-party integration tool built into the TikTok app. Creators could link to content from other apps, such as Whisk recipes, BuzzFeed and Quizlet quizzes, Breathwork breathing exercises, Rotten Tomato ratings, and more. We understand that the new games are not part of the TikTok Jump initiative, as they are a first-party effort. However, they are in this same section.
Now, when a creator posts a link to one of the new games available in this section, it appears as an anchor above their username in the resulting video. From there, viewers can click play when they come across the video.
At launch, HTML5 game titles include the following games:
- FRVR Basketball (by FRVR)
- Touch the Difference (by Lotum)
- Peek a Who (by Nitro)
- Pride Run (by Voodoo)
- Influencer Run (by Voodoo)
- Space Destroyer (by Nitro)
- Mr. Aim Lab’s Nightmare (by Aim Lab)
TikTok had not officially announced the launch of its mobile game pilot, but a spokesperson confirmed that the effort began testing in several global markets a couple of weeks ago.
“We’re always looking for ways to enrich our platform and regularly test new features and integrations that add value to our community,” a TikTok spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch. “We are currently exploring the possibility of bringing HTML5 games to TikTok through integrations with third-party developers and game studios.”
They said the initiative is in the early stages of testing and could not comment on the terms of the deal with individual game makers. However, none of the games are currently monetized either through ads or in-app purchases, we’re told. For now, the pilot is only looking to determine if and how TikTok’s existing game community interacts with these games and to what extent users will create content around the titles. Of course, in the long run, things could change, if TikTok wanted to go in that direction.
TikTok told us that these new mini-games are a separate effort from the games being developed for TikTok LIVE, which allow creators to interact with fans when they go live.
App intelligence firm Watchful.ai noted that the games were recently listed in the “Add a link” section under the “MiniGame” heading, but Zynga’s game Disco Loco 3D is still listed separately . He saw that the addition was recently launched in the Southeast Asian markets. However, we found the minigames available in that same menu here in the US
TikTok isn’t the first tech giant to expand beyond its core focus on mobile gaming. Google, for example, embraced HTML5 gaming with the launch of gaming platform GameSnacks, which last year expanded to the new tab page of Google Chrome in markets such as India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya. Facebook also entered cloud gaming last year with the launch of Facebook Gaming on the web and Android. Netflix, meanwhile, has made free mobile game downloads part of its subscription.
There’s a certain irony that TikTok is building a casual gaming platform, and that its first partner in that endeavor was Zynga. The gaming company originally built its business on the back of Facebook, leveraging the social network’s growing user base to attract players to its titles. This helped it become one of the largest social gaming companies and led to its eventual IPO. These days, however, Facebook has become a thing of the past with the younger generation, while TikTok is the best app in the world. Zynga, meanwhile, is no longer a stand-alone company. But mobile social gaming could grow again if TikTok’s pilot is successful.